Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Friday, January 26, 2007

The DirecTV Debacle

I've been meaning to put my two cents in on this story for a few days now, ever since I first read about it. Today, Jayson Stark perfectly captured my thoughts, feelings, and frustrations about the impending deal (ESPN Insider Subscription required), but I thought I'd say a few words anyway, about my particular situation.

In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, Major League Baseball is about to sign a deal that would make DirecTV the exclusive provider of the Extra Innings package, which makes a good majority of out-of-market games available on TV each night. Previously, Extra Innings was available through a variety of other providers, including digital cable (my experience is with Comcast), and I believe through Dish Network, although I'm not positive. The point is, the majority of interested customers had access to the package; all they had to do was shell out the dough to get it.

For someone like me, who lives far, far away from my beloved Twins, the Extra Innings package was the ideal way to view the majority of the games. It gave me a chance in about half of the games to listen to Dick & Bert, and to watch the game as if I were still in Minnesota. At the same time, it gave me a chance to flip around during commercials and catch parts of other games, something which I also valued. Down the stretch in the playoffs last year, I was able to follow the Twins, White Sox, and Tigers - and let me tell you, catching a Tigers/White Sox game became almost (but not quite) as much fun as watching the Twins.

Now, as a digital cable subscriber, my ability to purchase the package is going to disappear. It's not as bad for me as it is for fans in San Diego and Philadelphia, who can only get local games on cable and so will have to subscribe to both cable and DirecTV if they want to watch their local team and get the great experience of seeing the rest of baseball (local games are blacked out on the Extra Innings package). I do have the option of going after DirecTV rather than digitial cable. However, I also live in an apartment, and will be moving in late May. While my current apartment would probably be compatible with DirecTV, there's a certain amount of uncertainty regarding whether my next apartment will be so suitable. I suspect I'm not alone in not wanting to make the move because of uncertainty and unfamiliarity with the DirecTV experience.

There is another option, and it's the one I'll almost certainly be taking. Major League Baseball's excellent MLB.tv package is actually more comprehensive than the Extra Innings package (usually, at least one Twins game a week - often mid-week day games, in particular - are unavailable on Extra Innings), offering untelevised games to fans by showing video footage from the in-stadium recording made (presumably) for the teams, with an audio feed that (I believe) comes from a radio play-by-play. When the game is televised, you usually get that feed. So, unlike Extra Innings, every game is available - and that's a nice advantage of the online option. In fact, last year I subscribed to both Extra Innings and MLB.tv so I could watch the games that were unavailable on Extra Innings.

Of course, the experience isn't the same. Watching the game on a small box on your computer is not nearly as satisfying as watching on TV. And, for someone like me who works on my computer almost constantly while watching TV, it makes multi-tasking inconvenient at best and impossible at worst. Nevertheless, this is probably the best option for fans with a good internet connection and concerns about DirecTV. What am I saying - it's the ONLY option, aside from foregoing the experience of watching baseball regularly.

I wish I could say that the outpouring of fan angst (Buster Olney has said he's received far, far more e-mail on this subject than about Mark McGwire's Hall of Fame candidacy) and negative columns (the Stark column above is the best example of a passionate screed against this move) would affect the final decision. Unfortunately, it won't - baseball has decided to continue to squeeze all the money they can out of the current deal, and DirecTV blows the competition out of the water. I guess when the owner's demonstrate zero spending restraint, it necessitates moves like this. I only hope that this move doesn't turn off too many fans and cut off the surge in popularity that baseball has been undergoing for the last few years.


  • At Fri Jan 26, 10:33:00 AM , Blogger Marty said...

    This is more proof that bean counters make a lot of bad business decisions. Rather than make baseball games accessible and convenient to a large base of people (including people who might become fans) they decide to squeeze their audience to those willing to put up extra money and time. It might make more money in the short term but in the long term it will drive people away from the game.

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